Late in 1948 a
group of local model engineering enthusiasts met to discuss the formation of a
club to develop local interest in the hobby. As a result of this meeting the
During the Society's first year the members began the construction of a multi-gauge portable track on which members' live-steam model locomotives, of 2", 3½” and 5" gauges could be run. Discussions also took place on whether to build a steam locomotive as a Society project, and it was eventually agreed to begin the construction of a 5" gauge model based on a design by "LBSC" - the "Maid of Kent" - to be undertaken by those members having the appropriate skills and experience.
It was soon realised that the Society could not rely
solely on members' subscriptions for its income to finance various club
projects and, in 1950, it was decided to stage an exhibition of the Society's
work to raise more funds. With the help of the Dorchester Model Engineering
Society and the West Dorset Model Car Club, based in Bridport,
this was held in August 1950 in the small Sidney Hall (alas, no longer in
existence - replaced by the ASDA supermarket and its car park) and was opened
by the then Mayor of Weymouth, Councillor H A Medlam.
This exhibition was a great success and became the first of a tradition of
annual exhibitions by the Society which was to last until 1970. The venue
changed, however, and eventually settled in the
1954 the Society's activities had expanded and now supported a keen model
railway group who started to build a large 00-gauge exhibition layout. It soon
proved impossible to make much progress on such an ambitious project in the
The live steam group was also suffering from lack of workshop time in 1955, the "Maid of Kent" having reached the stage when steam trials would soon be needed. Fortunately the father of one of our younger members came to the rescue with the offer of a spare ground-floor room at the local Toc-H headquarters, together with the use of the garden. This offer was taken up and, after laying a concrete path in the garden, 60 feet of the portable track was erected for members' use and for trials and running-in of the "Maid of Kent". Until the "Maid of Kent" became operational, members' own locos had been used for passenger-carrying duties on the portable track and mention must be made of three in particular which bore the brunt of such work - a 3½" gauge model of LMS 6201 "Princess Elizabeth", another LBSC 3½" design "Maisie" based on the LNER Ivatt Atlantic loco and a freelance 3½" gauge model based loosely on the Southern Railway Maunsell "Schools" class.
The 1955 exhibition saw the new 00-gauge layout in operation, albeit without scenery, and the "Maid of Athens", as the club 5"-gauge loco had been named, was coping admirably with the passenger-hauling duties on the portable track. This exhibition also began what was to become a tradition for a few years - the opening ceremony was performed by the star of the summer show at the Weymouth Pavilion. In 1955 the comedian Derek Roy officiated and a picture of him at the controls of the model railway appeared in the local press. Among the celebrities who opened subsequent exhibitions were Charlie Drake and Bill Maynard - the latter enjoying a spell at the regulator of the steam loco on the portable track.
1957 the model railway group was dealt a body blow when the authorities decided
to demolish the
With such a large model railway to be transported to
the exhibition site every year, plus all the live steam equipment, when the
opportunity arose to purchase a
To raise extra cash for the model railway group's
projects, additional exhibitions were held in December for three years in the
original venue ~ the small Sidney Hall - to capitalise on the appeal of model
railways at Christmas time. These proved very popular with the
The live steam members were also looking ahead
towards having a permanent, continuous track somewhere in the area. Fortunately
we had as our President the Weymouth Borough Surveyor, the late A J (Jeff)
Wallis, and he gave us much help by suggesting and surveying potential sites.
Unfortunately none of these came to fruition but, eventually, a site at Yeates Corner on
This enabled the live steam group to begin the design and construction of the components of a permanent track to be laid at Yeates Corner. This was an egg-shaped loop of multi-gauge track raised on concrete plinths (yes - more concrete mixing!) although this time the gauges were 3½", 5", and 7¼", the smaller 2 ½" being left out as the trend by now was towards making larger-scale models and the ½"-scale, 2½"-gauge models were becoming extinct. The track gave a continuous run of 400 feet and on completion we welcomed visiting members of many other model engineering societies to the opening day in 1967.
With the opening of the permanent steam track on
Portland the distance between it and the clubroom at Red Barracks, Weymouth,
was an inconvenience when it came to storing locomotives, fuel and other
equipment after a running session and it was felt that the live steam group
should look for suitable accommodation on Portland, as near to the track as
possible. In due course a shed was found off
From this point the activities of the two branches
tended to diverge somewhat. The Portland Branch concentrated on weekend running
on the permanent track and attending local fetes and rallies with the portable
track. The construction of another steam locomotive was begun in the new workshop
- a 7¼" gauge adaptation of "LBSC's"
"Juliet", an outside-cylindered 0-4-0 tank loco – a simple but rugged
model, admirably suited to heavy duty on the permanent and portable tracks and easy
to maintain. This model was built as cheaply as possible, and no castings were
employed - everything was fabricated from basic raw materials, even the
cylinders. The proof of the pudding was in the eating, and this loco is still
in active service after 25 years! In this time it has seen service all over
The Weymouth Branch now concentrated on the
construction of the new 00-gauge model railway 16 feet by 9 feet in size, with
tracks on three levels. Designed to be easy to erect it had six baseboards each
with built-in legs and it could be erected by three persons and in operation
within two hours of delivery to an exhibition site. In the meantime the first
layout had been dismantled and we had no layout for exhibition duty in the
mid-1960s. Fortunately, by this time we had a good working relationship with
The Weymouth Branch had already been helping out at
exhibitions staged by the
By now (early 1966) the Army had transferred Red
Barracks to the Post Office, who used the premises as the local base for the
telephone engineers- department and parking accommodation for its fleet of
vehicles while the new
This new landlord coming to the barracks turned out
to have another advantage .an old Post Office 2-ton parcel delivery van was
parked in the barrack square for some months and, after a few discreet
enquiries, it was found to be on the disposal list. The Weymouth Branch put in
a bid for the vehicle and, in September 1966, became its proud owner for the
sum of £25. This van was ideal for carrying the new exhibition model railway,
and suitable racking was designed and installed so that the whole of the layout
and its associated equipment could be fitted into the van, enabling one journey
to deliver the layout to any exhibition. With the acquisition of this new
transport the Weymouth Branch was able to present its model railway at
exhibitions further afield and, together with
Although the two Branches of the Society now led
separate existences, they came together on numerous occasions when a large
turnout of staff was needed, such as when the portable steam track had to be
manned for an intensive session at fetes, rallies and, in particular, at Weymouth
Carnival, and members of the Weymouth Branch were not averse to getting their
hands dirty on the steam locos. Conversely, certain members of the Portland
Branch had been seen at the controls of the model railway at exhibitions to give
the Weymouth Branch members a break. During the 1960s, with the advent of club
transport, vehicle maintenance had been added to the activities of the Weymouth
Branch and some of the younger members served an apprenticeship that they had
not anticipated when they joined the Society! One young member, in fact, became
so keen that he built his own car, based on an
The Portland Branch, having equipped its workshop with a wide selection of old but serviceable machine tools, including a 5" Holbrook lathe and a full-size universal milling machine, now offered excellent facilities and numerous projects were undertaken by its members. A 7¼ “gauge freelance model of a BR diesel shunter was built around an old Royal Enfield 125cc motorcycle engine to share track duties with "Juliet". The portable track had been rebuilt some time ago and now was a around level track of only two gauges, 5" and 7¼", instead of its original format of 2½",3 ½" and 5" gauges raised about 15" above ground. This rebuilt track was much easier to transport and was now some 120 feet in length.
Another blow to the Society came in 1970, when it was
1971 coincided with the 400th anniversary of the
1975 saw another body blow dealt to the Society,
however, when the Post Office gave the Society notice to quit the guard room
prior to the barracks being sold for redevelopment. Interest in the development
of the model railway had been waning for some time, since the cessation of exhibitions
1975, therefore, the Society has consisted solely of 'heavy engineering'
enthusiasts based at
In 1991, however, the owners of the Society's workshop sought an increase in rent that was high enough to cause the members to question whether the expense of a communal workshop could be justified. At a special general meeting of the membership it was decided that the workshop was an expensive luxury which was only being used by a few members and the decision was made to sell off the Society's equipment and give up the lease of the premises.
There was a glimmer of hope however, as one of our
newer members was a teacher at the
portable track also went to
In the meantime the rump of the club continued to
meet on a Tuesday night in the workshop on
The financial situation within the club was limited
to membership fees only and therefore the prospect of funding any building
activities was very limited. In fact the
club insurance bill ate up most of the annual income. 1998 marked the 50th anniversary
of the club and so members decided that something had to be done both to mark
the occasion and raise some much needed cash.
The local museum in
2000 a new opportunity came for the club to once again rise out from the ashes as
a new technology college was emerging out of the old
With the active support of the school, the club was
able to establish a rudimentary club house in a disused double garage donated
by the school. A new Technology Block
had just been built and this formed the centre around which was built a ground
level 7¼ and 5" track. This was
back breaking work as the ground was not level and the clay, of the hardest
kind! Nonetheless, after many months of
toil the track was finally completed with embankments, a bridge and a station. The “Wren” and “Juliet” had been returned
The “Juliet” did sterling work at weekend on a very rough length of portable track but it earned us much needed cash.
The small but dedicated band of club members then set about digging and cutting the new track bed through impossibly hard clay but eventually a complete loop was achieved around the new technology block.
As we neared completion, news leaked out that the school planned to extend the technology block and half the loop would have to be taken up and re-laid after the extensive building programme. This saw the demise of the embankment and bridge neither of which was deemed a lost as the garss cutting became easier and the new track had a solid 'cruch and run' base we pursuaded the builders to leave behind.
So, out with the shovels again but the result was a much longer and very usable track that was more of a challenge to drive than apparent at first sight. The north curve was tightened to a radius of 20' due to the new Sports Hall being placed a few metres out of intended alignment. This, coupled with a gradient of 1 in 30 at one point, would catch out the unwary driver who dared venture up the bank without a full head of steam!
The "Wren" and "Juliet" finally had their own track and in addition to provide the 'non-loco owning' club members a chance to drive, they provided a steady and much needed income on their outings to school fetes.
"Juliet" did sterling work at weekends on a very rough length of portable track which had started life as part of the club track retreievd from the former Portland Quarry club site. This track was eventually replace with lighter and more easier to assemble portable track in 2005.
Track-moving apart, the move to the College provided a period of welcome stability and mutual benefit during which facilities were added rather than rebuilt or taken away. Permission was granted to use the College workshop, and the Technology Block sprouted a small but heated and lit clubroom which on a cold winter's evening was light-years away from meeting in the garage. The kettle, microwave and loo make us feel very civilised! The garage by now had been relegated to storage duties but no matter how many times it was tidied and re-organised, never seemed to be quite big enough for everything it was required to contain. The track gained a passing loop with station platform and a turntable with steaming bays. An attempt was made to 'beautify' the otherwise sterile environment around the college building with the addition of shrubs most of which survived in the 'hostile' surroundings!
The development of the track brought about a wave of engine building and visitors. Members' projects seemed to get larger and more ambitious, with a large 4"-scale Quarry Hunslet and a Sweet William becoming regular performers and the occasional guest appearance of a Romulus. Nontheless the "Mighty" Wren remained the mainstay of the Club's fund-raising efforts.
By 2007 everything was running as smoothly as a well-oiled Myford. Membership numbers were stable at around 25 and there were regular Saturday steam-ups, plus a full programme of fetes using the portable track. Successful summer barbecues replaced the more formal Annual Club Christmas Dinner.
Another milestone was reached in 2008 with the Club 'Diamond Jubilee'. To mark this occasion the Club once again held a month-long exhibition at Weymouth Museum, Brewers Quay. At the AGM that year, the train well-and-truly hit the buffers again. A new Phase 1 of the College redevelopment programme would mean that half the track would have to be lifted while new building were erected adjacent to it. Uncertainty also existed as to how extensive the redevelopment was going to be and therefore whether the original track could or would ever be relaid. The Club once again entered a period of uncertainty.
The 2009 New Year's Day Steam-up with hot pies and mushy peas was a poignant affair, knowing that it would be the last on that track. And so, mobilising any Club Member who could wield a spanner, push a barrow or make a cuppa, the track was lifted in only a few hours on a cold Saturday just a few days later. The other half of the track remains for the time being, but playing "out-and-back branch lines" has little appeal for the members. The offer by the College of a piece of ground not due for immediate development lead to the calling of a Special General Meeting where a vote was take to take up this offer and once again prepared to move 'lock, stock, barrel and garage' to an overgrown ex-nature garden once used by the College science department. Age was now taking its toll on members but thanks to the loan of a JCB for a weekend, the overgrown site was cleared in double-quick time. Wood for shuttering, concrete slabs, topsoil and even a concrete mixer have been donated and the first concrete was laid on 2nd June 2009.
2009 also saw the arrival of 16mm guage railway into the Club. Dark cold Tuesday night in the Club House with nothing to do but to talk about but politics lead to the building of 16mm portable layout that can be used on-site or transported to outside events. While work continued on the modular track boards, several members embarked on in building locos, mainly to ubiquious 'Dennis' or 'Eric' designs. The question remains as to whether we are have a 1954 'deja-vu' moment, only time will tell.
To be continued …….. Back to Home page